A wild Asian Elephant was spotted smoking in an Indian National Park. The remarkable video showing the creature blowing off smoke was released by the Wildlife Conservation Society of India, and has been making the rounds on the internet ever since.
According to WCS India, the video was shot by Vinay Kumar, when he saw the female elephant doing something that he had never witnessed before: ingesting charcoal and blowing out ashes. In his own words, the Assistant Director at WCS said, “She would draw up a trunk full of ash close to her mouth and blow it out in a puff of smoke”.
WCS India said, “This is the first known video documentation of a wild elephant exhibiting such behaviour and this has scientists and experts puzzled”.
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The video was made in Nagarahole National Park, Karnataka, India, where Kumar and his colleagues were checking in on installed camera-traps in the park. The elephant biologist on the team, Dr. Varun R. Goswami, was left speechless when he saw the elephant who appeared to be smoking, and speculated that the animal was trying to eat wood charcoal.
Kumar added that charcoal is known to have “toxic-binding properties” and though lacking in nutritional value, wild animals tend to consume it for medicinal value; it serves as a laxative.
Animals also tend to consume charcoal after forest fires, lightning strikes, or controlled burns, he said in his blog post for WCS India.
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According to Smithsonian, animals using natural materials for self-medication is known as ‘zoopharmacognosy’. It is a relatively common phenomena in the animal kingdom.
For example, red and green macaws have been known to eat clay to kill bacteria and aid in digestion. Red colobus monkeys have also been seen eating charcoal on the island of Zanzibar, in order to counteract toxic materials in their food.
According to research by the National Academy of Science of USA, The word ‘zoopharmacognosy’ is derived from the roots zoo (“animal”), pharma (“drug”) and gnosy (“knowing”). Research saysit’s not clear whether self-medicating behavior by animals is innate or learned.
The Indian elephant, who’s fuming like a chimney, has social media users fascinated and has now gone viral.
The elephant has people entertained but not everyone is baffled; some are forming their own explanations as to why the elephant was smoking.
WCS India has now posted on Twitter along the same lines, inviting people to make a meme out of the image of the elephant by captioning it!
What would you caption this?